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Composting is the process whereby organic waste biodegrades naturally into nutrient-rich soil for gardening. There are both anaerobic and aerobic composting; the former does not utilise any oxygen while the latter requires oxygen for composting.

If the idea of composting invokes images of a stinking pile of garbage slowly decaying in your yard, fret not! There is a proper way of composting and it doesn’t have to be an unpleasant experience. So, rather than throwing away your kitchen scraps, why not try composting them at home? Here’s how you can do just that:

1. Get a compost bin and choose your location

To ensure good air circulation in your compost bin, drill small holes on the lid, the bottom, and the sides. The bin should be placed in an airy area without direct sunlight.

It’s important to ensure that your compost bin allows for air to circulate freely as the micro-organisms would require oxygen to decompose the waste. If there’s insufficient air, gases like methane, ammonia and hydrogen sulfide can be produced, causing unpleasant smells.

2. Start composting

 

You’ll need a good mix of browns such as dried leaves, cardboard egg cartons, and newspaper and greens like fruits, vegetables, kitchen waste, and coffee grounds.

Add extra newspaper or dried leaves towards the bottom of your bin so that it can absorb any extra moisture from your wet greens. Browns are carbon-rich while greens are nitrogen-rich, and the micro-organisms use them both as food. To prevent maggots from appearing, try to make sure your bin is made up of three parts dry browns, and one part wet greens.

Then you’ll need an accelerator. This is responsible for kick starting and quickening the breakdown of the organic matter in your compost bin. An example is buttermilk or manure. You can also shred the waste in order to quicken the process.

3. Continue to add materials until your bin is full

 

A good aerobic composting pile should be moist, but not excessively wet. If too much kitchen waste is added, it may begin to smell as the result of anaerobic bacterial action.

Compost, when added to soil, increases its productivity by retaining soil moisture, improving soil structure, and enriching it with essential nutrients. This promotes the growth of healthy plants. Moreover, it reduces the use of pesticides and fertilisers, many of which can be harmful to the environment.

4. Leave it alone

Because your pile needs aeration, you’ll need to turn the pile once in a while. Other than that, it doesn’t require much attention.

Aerobic composting prevents landfills from rapidly reaching their capacity. It also keeps organic waste, which often contain a lot of water, from being transported as well. Not transporting these wastes conserves fuel and energy. Because these organic materials don’t end up in landfills, it reduces the emission of methane into the environment. The overwhelming amount of methane gas in our atmosphere is a known contributor to global warming.

5. Use your compost

That’s it! Your compost is ready for use!

 

Depending on the materials you used, you’ll start to see that the result is a dark and crumbly mixture, with an earthy, soil-like odor to it after about 40 days (and especially if you contributed to your pile daily). Use it to grow your own produce and you’ll quickly get into the habit of composting.

Composting can help the environment in more ways than one, such as reducing water pollution. Fertilisers can be a major cause of water pollution, but when they are mixed with the compost in your soil, the compost binds to the fertiliser and prevents seepage and contamination of groundwater.

Written by Anna Fernandez

A herbarium is a collection of preserved plant and herb specimens. These specimens are typically used for scientific study, but for the everyday collectors, a herbarium can just be a unique decoration in your house. I'll be honest, when researching, I initially thought a herbarium was like a terrarium but with herbs instead of usual plants like cacti. *cue laughter* Turns out it's a collection of herbs in frames. So if you were like me and you thought this article was an online terrarium workshop, it's time to learn something new! Life is all about surprises and spontaneity, isn't it? 

A simple herbarium

To produce a comprehensive physical collection, there are a few facets that require your attention when creating your own herbarium. If you wish to create a simple one that requires minimal effort, it is a much simpler process but if you want to create a more sophisticated and professional looking herbarium, you may need to purchase a few items. Let us start with the simple one first; this is a great activity to do with your kids or nature-loving friends because it'll get you out of the house and into the sun where you will get that much needed vitamin D.

What you will need:

Many of these items can be found at your local book or stationery store and they are inexpensive so this fun little project definitely won't burn a hole in your pocket.

Instructions:

  1. Grab your kids or friends and suit up in khakis and tank tops. Do not forget your suncreen, hats and sunglasses.
  2. Venture out into the woods, nature reserves or even your backyard and you the pair of scissors to cut and gather the plants and flowers you would like to add to your collection. However, do make sure it is alright for you to take these plants from your local nature spots.
  3. Note down the location you found each specimen and if you can already identify them, do note down their names so you can research more once you reach home and write it on your final herbarium sheet.
  4. Once you have all the plants you would like in your herbarium, clean any dirt and bugs off the plant.
  5. Place the plants in the centre of an opened book - the plant should be spread out so you can see the whole thing, then close the book and place more books on top for added weight.
  6. Leave the plants to dry for 7-14 days.
  7. Once dried, tape each specimen to one sheet of paper and place them into the plastic covers. Decorate each sheet with the information of each specimen eg. scientific name, native location, color, smell, etc.
  8. Compile all sheets into your binder and enjoy!

Not too hard, right? This is no doubt a fun and productive way to spend the weekend with your loved ones. Collecting is a good hobby to foster amongst children because studies have shown that it improves both creativity and pattern recognition in children. Seeing as collecting requires organisational skills, the hobby also allows them to improve their aptitude for recognizing everyday characteristics and being able to identify breaks in a pattern.

A bigger and more comprehensive herbarium

Now, if you would like to make a bigger herbarium, your mounting process will differ slightly from the previous set of instructions. It will also cost slightly more to put together but it will come out looking like something from a museum. The only thing that changes would be the mounting process. Instead of putting your sheets into a plastic protector, purchase a plastic screen to paste on top of your sheet, and then frame it in a glass frame instead of a binder. Your frames will go nicely as a decoration over your bed or dining room. Nothing like a little splash of green hues to brighten up your day. Not to mention it is great for that mid-work eye break. As you add more to your collection and you find yourself without any more space, they make great gifts as well. Nothing shows love quite like a handmade gift!

For the adventurous craftsmen out there, you can make your very own flower press as well. Pressed flowers can be used in other crafts projects too; like jewelry and decor.

What you will need:

Instructions:

  1. Stack the wood on top of each other and drill holes in all four corners, through both pieces of wood. (Note: make sure the drill bit is of the same size as your bolts)
  2. Cut your cardboard/wood slightly smaller than your 2 wooden boards and subsequently cut off each corner so that it will fit inside the bolts.
  3. Insert your bolts through both wooden boards so it looks like a sandwich.
  4. To use, place your flowers on pieces of cardboard and in between both wooden boards. Press down on the top board and leave the flowers or plants to dry.

You could even decorate your flower press while waiting for the flowers to dry. A word of caution, make sure you leave the flowers to dry for the aforementioned period of time before opening the press to peek! The flowers might rip or crumble if they are not completely dried.

So there you have it, the tips and how-to to make your very own herbarium. It isn't exactly the easiest art project but it isn't the hardest either. If you have a great appreciation for plants and you would like it to manifest into something most tangible for decorative purposes, then this is the project for you.

We at Nilufer would love to see some of your creations! Do tag us on instagram of the pictures of your herbariums! Enjoy crafting!

As the world progresses and we're constantly updating ourselves with technology, having plants around the house helps brings us back a step closer to Mother Nature. Though part of the progression also means spending more time on our iPads or Galaxy Notes and never actually having enough time for a proper meal, yet alone taking care of plants.

Fret not! Listed below are 5 easy-care plants for the irresponsible - myself included.

Snake plant: It's name itself can seem appalling and you'd want nothing to do with it. Perfect! Not only does this plant have health benefits, but it can survive for weeks at a time. To top that off, it actually looks pretty and improves the indoor air quality. You practically don't have to take care of it and it does the exact opposite for you.

 

Echeveria: This right here is a beauty particularly because it grows in the shape of a blooming flower. They come in all sorts of colours that'll easily match with any theme you are going for. All you gotta do for your home to be blessed with one of these guys, is to give them plenty of constant light and keep the soil moist for them to stay healthy.

 

Aloe: You're probably well aware of the countless medicinal properties the aloe possesses, but these plants make just as wonderful home décor. Like the Echeveria, It’s a succulent, so dry conditions will not be a problem. Tons of indirect sunlight will be a plus for your aloe plant to flourish.

 

Bromeliad: Who knew the Cousin of the pineapple was such a prima donna. Don't let its looks fool you as this superstar is actually pretty easy to handle. Being drought tolerant, you'll be good even if you only remember to water it once a week.

 

Sweetheart Hoya: It's pretty blooms and pleasant fragrance are not guaranteed if not coaxed with the right amount of sunlight but it's succulent heart-shaped leaves are to die for. If you're an animal lover, the ASPCA has certified it safe for cats and dogs

 

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